Saturday, June 4, 2011

Prodigal Sons

As of this last Sunday morning, Emmett Kitty was still very much missing and had been for about three days. I’d been feeling pretty mixed about the whole thing, as I was still unconvinced he wouldn’t come walking up the driveway one day. But on Saturday night, when I wrote my blog entry about my interactions with Mrs. Foreman and of her appearance during the time I risked my hide to rescue the mystery Avie-like male cat from a tree, I started to feel more than a little resentful that such good deeds had gone unrewarded, at least in the current cat department. Meanwhile, my one thin thread of hope, the Otto family, was still out of town, so I had no way of knowing if they’d seen Emmett. The knowledge that was unlikely that they're having seen him would help at all, unless they had Emmett stashed in their house, did not make me any happier.

On Sunday morning the wife left for work and I took the dogs to go out for breakfast burritos. Burritos found and consumed, I began driving back home intending to walk the dogs when I got to the main road outside of our neighborhood. However, instead of turning onto that road, I decided to keep going down the highway and headed out of town and to the next community where there was supposed to be a river of sorts. (There's a little more story as to why I needed a river, but I'll have to come to that tale later as it's long and involves small watercraft.) In the next community, I did find the river, but it was really more of a wide shallow creek that was full of rocks. Being a nice morning and the scenery being so pleasant, I continued along the riverside road I was on as it wound on around through a third little community. And during this, I soon passed a church.

The church was a medium sized one in a newish looking building and it happened to share the same name as the church I attended as a child, back in Mississippi. Let’s call it Grace Baptist, though that’s not its real name. I felt a bit of a magnetic pull toward it. It looked inviting and friendly, with a nice blacktop parking lot, lots of church buses and with the beautiful creek/river running in front of it. But I kept on driving. After all, I was practically wearing pajamas, had dogs in the car and it was barely 10 a.m. But I made a mental note that it might be a good one to come back and try another day.

See the wife and I have been in the market for a new church for a while now, but I have to confess that we’ve been dragging ass about actually finding one. Every few weeks we say, “Yeah, we probably ought to go try a new church,” and then we usually don’t. A lot of it has to do with the wife's work schedule and my unwillingness to try new places alone, but other times it's just laziness on our part. When we do try a new church, we’re usually underwhelmed by the experience and nothing really seems to fit. It's not that we're terribly picky, but in the past we've both been pretty certain when we've found the place for us and so far we've not really found it. We're fans of churches that are A) preaching the word as we understand its truth to be; B) that is friendly to newcomers; and C) has a great choir. We're not interested in a lot of frufru beyond that, by which I mean that neither of us were raised in Pentecostal churches, so we're not into the whole catching the spirit/falling out in the aisles scene, the speaking in tongues scene, the running around the sanctuary waving ribbons on sticks scene, or the entire congregation rushes the pulpit for a giant group hug scene. I don’t mean to crap on churches where those events occur, and I certainly am not calling into question the authenticity of the spiritual events (though I do suspect a lot of the speaking in tongues I've personally witnessed to be the product of drama rather than spirit). I'm just saying that it's not a flavor we enjoy. In fact, we've had some fairly negative experiences when trying churches that carry packaging claiming to be vanilla but then turned out to be Tutti-Frutti Nut Cluster when we got there. And in our particular state, there’s a lot of that sort of thing to be found. During more than one church sampling in the past, I have literally thought the phrase "I think they're about to bring out the snakes.” Never actually saw any snakes handled, mind you, but I have definitely scanned the aisles for snake cages. (And on that note: God might very well be protecting the folks who choose to handle vipers in his name, and I hope he continues to, but God also gave me enough sense to leave `em in the woods.)

Eventually the road I was on reconnected with the main highway and I took that for the five plus mile drive back to where the highway connected to the road leading to my neighborhood. Just outside our neighborhood, I parked the car, leashed up the pooches and took them for a walk while listening to podcasts. We walked for around 20 minutes and were nearly back to my car when another vehicle pulled up beside us and slowed to a stop. In the passenger seat was a high school aged boy and in the driver’s seat was a lady who must have been his mom. The kid said, “Excuse me, sir, but could you tell us how to find Grace Baptist?”

"Actually, I can. I just drove past it earlier this morning," I said, the fingers of synchronicity tickling my neck. I then told them the way to get back to the highway and on down to the next exit that would take them back to Grace in a handful of miles. "You know, I would not have been able to tell you that yesterday, but I just drove by it earlier while joy riding," I said. The mom said it was a good thing they stopped to ask me. And, while I can’t pull her exact wording now, I’m pretty sure she said something in a half-joking manner about it being a sign I should go there myself sometime. “Yeah,” I said. “I probably should.”

I got in my car and drove home, wondering if this was indeed a sign. We as humans like to grasp onto things as signs and portents way too much, but this felt like a pretty big coincidence. It’s not like my neighborhood was really even near the church itself. It wasn’t even on the same side of the highway. Was I put in their path with the information they needed, or were they sent to nudge me back in the direction of the information I had earlier been given? Maybe both? I weighed all of this in my mind and found I could not dismiss the events of the morning as being a possible sign. So now my choice was whether or not I was going to ignore this sign.

Trying the church out certainly wouldn’t hurt me, I reasoned. Might even help me. And in the back of my mind, I even found myself thinking that maybe if I followed the sign and did what I was apparently being directed to do, I might be rewarded with the return of our frickin’ cat. So, at 10:45, I threw on some nicer clothes, grabbed my Bible and headed to church.


1 comment:

crsunlimited said...

I don't dump on anyone's beliefs although I have had several times in my life where people try to dump their beliefs onto my head.

I'm not, nor have I ever been, a church goer. So hearing that someone is "Changing" churches always sounds funny to me. It's like an old suit. "Well I suppose I should find me a new suit, I can't quite fit into this one anymore."

I've had tons of friends that even change sects. I'm still not sure how someone goes from being a Christian to a Baptist, or Mormon, or whatever. You would think these ideologies didn't have much in common save for the book of which they praise, but these said friends have been known to change back and forth every few years because something has changed and they the church no longer lines up with their personal views anymore.

That's another thing that I also think sounds funny. How exactly does a church change so drastically that it alienates followers in it's views? You would think that people who have been following this church for years would know it changed.

I'm sure it's the people who changed, but the way they make it sound is that the church pulled a 180 on them and it's just not where they want to be, even though they have been going for almost 2 years.

Personally I believe god isn't so Ego-maniacal as to care about how many hours you spent praising him/her. Life is hard, we are all here living it. We only have one shot at it (at least in this particular body) so lets try to get along till it ends.

That is some spooky cosmic pulling though, and I'm not one for signs either.